Posts Tagged ‘Climate change’

A time of transition: APCo releases latest Virginia generation plan

Monday, July 6th, 2015 - posted by hannah
Photo courtesy of Community Housing Partners / Solarize Blacksburg.

Customer involvement is essential as Appalachian Power navigates permitting and rate-setting for future clean energy projects in Virginia. Photo courtesy of Community Housing Partners / Solarize Blacksburg.

It’s like Christmas in July — for those of us who get excited about energy news, at least.

Last week, Virginia’s utilities released their long-term plans to meet electric demand. Here we unwrap that bright and shiny package and take a look at what mix of resources Appalachian Power plans to pursue between now and 2029.

What would you expect APCo to include in its plan? It wouldn’t a surprise to see huge investments in solar and wind; after all, clean power is growing rapidly in the commonwealth.

In the first three months of 2015, clean energy and transportation announcements picked up rapidly to the point that Virginia was ranked seventh in the U.S. Solarize initiatives and institutions adopting solar are further fanning these flames, and this fire now appears to be reaching the utility level too. With utility participation in this trend, there is a chance to realize serious health, economic and employment benefits.

And there is another important consideration in Virginia. Last year, the State Corporation Commission, which regulates Virginia electric utilities, directed Appalachian Power to look at ways to meet national carbon pollution reduction goals.

Now that Appalachian Power’s latest plan is out, we have a window into how the company hopes to meet future demand. We can now ask how these options promote healthier communities, lower overall energy bills, and create more sustainable clean energy jobs in the company’s service area? And we can see how its plans interact with new pollution standards?

Here are five points to help illuminate the plan: its purpose, the mix of sources, how energy efficiency is treated, the role of fossil fuels, and the scale of renewables:

1. APCo’s calls its primary option the “hybrid” plan. According to the plan summary: “While not the least-cost plan, the Hybrid Plan, when compared to other portfolios, attempts to balance cost, the potential risk of a volatile energy market.” That last phrase can help defend the options based on the fluctuations in natural gas prices and may refer to regulations too.

2. Wind, solar and efficiency resources total just 1 percent of APCo’s total capacity (in megawatts). Today, coal represents 72 percent of APCo’s generation portfolio. Natural gas represents 14 percent. By 2029, wind, solar and efficiency will come to 22 percent under this approach, coal will fall to 52 percent and natural gas will grow to 23 percent.

3. But let’s look at energy efficiency. Currently, there are no APCo efficiency programs underway in Virginia. There is, however, a set of demand-side management programs that has been approved to begin later this year, and the company does fund low-income weatherization. Still, the Hybrid Plan largely ignores the opportunity to expand energy efficiency, which under the plan accounts for just 1 percent of energy needs by 2029. The state goal endorsed by Governor Terry McAuliffe is 10 percent savings by 2020. Only by developing much more robust energy efficiency programs can APCo significantly invest in reducing customer bills, help create jobs in home assessment and retrofitting, and avoid the need to develop costlier sources.

4. Note that Clinch River units 1 and 2 are still on schedule to be converted to gas now and then retired before 2026, unit 3 is currently close to being retired. Glen Lyn is also retired. While the Hybrid Plan describes pursuing constructing 836 megawatts of combined-cycle natural gas units, it appears the company plans to build those plants out of — limiting the growth of carbon emissions in Virginia but leading to an increase in the carbon footprint of APCo’s Virginia customers.

5. Clean energy investments grow significantly in this plan. Utility-scale solar will include a 10-megawatt project in 2016, with future projects bringing the total to 510 megawatts of solar by 2029. Onshore wind will include 150 megawatts of projects in 2016, with future projects bringing the total to 1,350 megawatts of wind by 2029. APCo assumes its customers will add a total of 25 megawatts of distributed solar generation by 2029. If APCo is factoring that distributed solar into its plans, it should assist customers with incentives to go solar and begin to fairly value those customers’ contributions to a more secure and cleaner energy system.

While APCo representatives stress that the resource plan document is merely a snapshot in time and subject to changes and evolution, it’s worth engaging with the utility about what this plan says about its priorities.

Since Appalachian Power’s choices figure into Virginia’s compliance with the Clean Power Plan compliance, it is critical that the utility consider how to maximize benefits for customers as it works to meet emissions targets. Over the next 15 years, APCo must plan to reduce its total annual carbon pollution, not just slow its growth. The goals for greenhouse gas reductions are within reach, and our energy choices send signals that echo louder than ever across the Southeast.

As APCo navigates permitting and rate-setting processes for its vision of future clean energy projects, customer involvement will be essential. We’ll need to be ready to challenge any and all barriers to smart renewable energy investments that diversify local energy sources, create jobs in the clean energy sector and result in healthier air in APCo’s service region.

Pope’s message on climate brings hope for change

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - posted by cat

Encyclical-PF-10As news of Pope Francis’ pronouncement of our collective moral obligation to act on climate change whipped around the world, the planet just might have yawed and shook for a split second. The leader of more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide is a spiritual guide for many more, and his encyclical on ecology — the Vatican’s first — was anticipated to be a game-changer in the ongoing struggle to shed the world’s economies of fossil fuels and abate global warming.

Whether that happens remains to be seen, but in the meantime, leaders from all corners of the globe and all walks of life hopped on the papal bandwagon to sound their own calls-to-action, including decisive action at the upcoming international climate summit in Paris. Below is a sampling of some of these comments, and a few excerpts from the “Laudato Si’” Encyclical. (What’s an encyclical? This article has a good summary of these papal documents.)

Quotes and excerpts are drawn from The Tree: Content for Climate and Energy Communicators website.)

  • “We are part of Nature. We don’t have two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather a single complex socio-environmental crisis. This is the frame within which we need to put some of the themes in the Encyclical” – Cardinal Peter Turkson
  • “The Church should now introduce the sin against the environment, the ecological sin. It is a sin not only against God but also against our neighbour and also, and this is very serious, against future generations” – Metropolitan of Pergamo, John Zizioulas
  • “As responsible citizens of the world – sisters and brothers of one family, the human family, God’s family – we have a duty to persuade our leaders to lead us in a new direction: to help us abandon our collective addiction to fossil fuels.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
  • “Business is a human enterprise and therefore must be by people for the people, whereas with business as usual not many of us will be around to enjoy the benefits” – Dr. Carolyn Woo, President & CEO of Catholic Relief Services
  • “The ones politicising the matter are those like Cruz who coddle their fossil fuel funders by denying the science of climate change and smearing those who attempt to point out the very real and damaging impacts climate change is already having. It is shameful and history will judge it as such.” – Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, Michael Mann
  • “Climate science is a tool for making decisions, not a political football. I wish journalists and citizens would ask politicians how they are using climate science to do their jobs — including protecting us from changes in some types of extreme weather — not for their personal opinions about scientific evidence.” – The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Aaron Huertas
  • “Today, it’s clearer than ever that the end of the fossil fuel era is upon us — and so too, we hope, the end of the era of rising poverty and inequality. The Pope’s call only hastens our transition to a clean energy future, adding even more momentum to the fast-growing movement to divest from fossil fuels.” – 350.org Executive Director, May Boeve

Some gems from “Laudato Si’”

  • Page 4 Section 8 – Protecting nature, quoting Patriarch Bartholomew

    “For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”.

  • Page 28 Section 67 The Church has made mistakes, but that’s no reason not to do the right thing

    Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15).

  • Page 49 Section 114 Directing technology does not mean a return to the stone age

    All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.

  • Page 70 Section 165 Shifting away from fossil fuels

    We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay.

  • Page 82 Section 198 Politicians need to look beyond themselves

    While some are concerned only with financial gain, and others with holding on to or increasing their power, what we are left with are conflicts or spurious agreements where the last thing either party is concerned about is caring for the environment and protecting those who are most vulnerable. Here too, we see how true it is that “unity is greater than conflict.”

La Crosse Virus on the Rise in Appalachia

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - posted by Laura Marion

By Laura Marion

A third species of mosquito capable of transmitting the La Crosse encephalitis virus has been discovered in the Appalachian region, according to a report published by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Up to 100 cases of the disease are reported each year in the United States. The disease mainly affects the elderly and children younger than 16. Symptoms usually include nausea and headaches, although life-threatening conditions can also develop.

The number of reports of La Crosse have steadily increased in Appalachia since 2003. The report notes that climate change could result in a future rise in the amount of mosquitoes carrying the La Crosse virus in Appalachia.

Caught red-handed! Or more accurately, red-beaked

Monday, June 15th, 2015 - posted by Cody Burchett
A motion-activated camera catches this wood thrush snacking on a ginseng berry. Photo courtesy of James McGraw

A motion-activated camera catches this wood thrush snacking on a ginseng berry. Photo courtesy of James McGraw

By Kimber Ray

With a bright berry neatly clasped in its beak, the wood thrush is frequently among the usual suspects of long-distance wild ginseng seed dispersal.

For three years, biology professor Jim McGraw and his West Virginia University research team trained motion-activated cameras on this threatened medicinal plant in an attempt to figure out which creature might be responsible for expanding the migration of ginseng’s otherwise gravity-driven seeds.

“Working with a plant like this makes you appreciate how vast our lack of knowledge is,” says McGraw. “Everytime we ask a new question we realize how little we know about this.”

After investigating hundreds of photos and conducting a feeding test with captive wood thrushes, a paper published last year identified this small brown-and-white mottled songbird as the seed dispenser. Unlike other ginseng diners, the thrush regurgitates the seeds intact.

This could offer an important means of transportation for ginseng as the climate continues to warm and disrupts the plant’s habitats. The most venturesome travels are undertaken by juvenile wood thrushes, which may comprise up to a quarter of the population and have been recorded as far as two miles from their nest sites.

“They get picked out of their home territory and go search for new food sources,” says McGraw. “That’s what we think may account for their importance in terms of climate change.”

But it’s unclear whether the wood thrush could beat the pace of climate change which, according to a second paper recently published by McGraw’s lab, will depress rates of growth and reproduction in the plant.

Combined with illegal gathering and overpopulation of deer, McGraw says there are a lot of environmental factors working against ginseng. Still, he adds, “Once we understand the whole ecosystem and how one piece out of balance affects the rest, we’re going to start doing things better.”

Clean Power Plan Comes with Options and Opportunities

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 - posted by Cody Burchett
Citizens calling on lawmakers to support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan have amplified their message ahead of the final rule’s release in August. Photo courtesy of Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club

Citizens calling on lawmakers to support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan have amplified their message ahead of the final rule’s release in August. Photo courtesy of Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club

By Brian Sewell

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found a familiar foe in Sen. Mitch McConnell when it announced plans to regulate carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants last summer.

The Kentucky Republican and Senate majority leader has pledged to “pursue all avenues,” whether through Congress or the courts, to cripple the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s efforts to combat climate change.

McConnell even attempted to enlist officials at the state level, asking governors to rebuke the president by simply refusing to create a plan to implement the regulations.

That plot has so far failed. Ahead of the final rule’s release in August, at least 41 states are moving to meet their emissions goals, taking advantage of the flexibility offered under the plan to craft their own path to compliance.

“We have the legal — not just right and authority but responsibility — to [finalize the Clean Power Plan],” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in April. “People expect us to do it. I don’t see any utility thinking we’re not going to do it. So the politics are one thing and reality is another.”

In reality, policy groups are acting as guides and convening state utility commissioners and environmental regulators to build a common understanding of the rule.

A range of recent analyses have found that, not only can states cost-effectively comply with the Clean Power Plan, they can create savings for consumers while reducing pollution. In May, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions compared the findings of six such analyses, all of which conclude that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions and lower demand for fossil fuels.

The models also found that adopting efficiency programs minimizes impacts of the rising price of natural gas, the fuel that will cover much of coal’s lost capacity. In models where the role of energy efficiency was limited, on the other hand, costs to consumers ballooned with climbing gas prices.

But the concept that improving energy efficiency — doing more with less — can actually save money for consumers is lost on some of the plan’s opponents.

In April, the EPA’s Janet McCabe, testified to the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce that, “If we use less energy, our bills can go down. And our carbon emissions can go down.” West Virginia Rep. David McKinley was shocked. “Unbelievable,” the congressman replied. “It just seems delusional.”

As for renewable energy, the anticipated growth of wind and solar mean that they will contribute to reducing carbon with or without the Clean Power Plan. States with policies that incentivize renewable energy will see the greatest benefit.

While they don’t give the public the full story about opportunities presented by the Clean Power Plan, politicians like McConnell and McKinley are rightly concerned about the rule’s impact on the coal industry. Already against the ropes, the Appalachian coal industry is expected to take a huge hit from the plan.

According to a May analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the EPA’s proposal is expected to more than double the number of coal plant retirements through 2040, which would also impact coal production. In areas already suffering the economic impacts of coal’s decline, arguments against the plan relate to coal job losses as much as energy costs.

A new study by economists at the University of Maryland and the consulting firm Industrial Economics, however, concludes that the impact of lost jobs in the coal sector would be offset by investments in cleaner energy sources and productivity gains across the U.S. economy.

Despite the flexibility given to states under the plan, those seeking to defeat it are resolute. Legislation recently introduced by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., aims to erase the Clean Power Plan, according to language of the bill, “as though the rules had never been issued.”

Score one for the Clean Power Plan

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 - posted by cat
Opponents of the EPA's Clean Power Plan were rebuked by a panel of judges for trying to preempt a rule that has yet to be finalized.

Opponents of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan were rebuked by a panel of judges for trying to preempt a rule that has yet to be finalized.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today rebuked the first legal challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to cut global-warming pollution from the nation’s power plants, filed by the coal industry and a dozen states last year.

Any state regulators in central Appalachian or other coal-friendly states who were holding their breath, stalling on developing plans to cut carbon pollution from power plants in the hopes of a court victory, should take a deep breath and get back to work.

In a straightforward ruling, a panel of judges agreed that the states and the industry groups had no legal grounds to challenge EPA’s “Clean Power Plan,” which was proposed last year and is expected to be finalized in August.

“Petitioners are champing at the bit to challenge EPA’s anticipated rule restricting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. But EPA has not yet issued a final rule. It has issued only a proposed rule. Petitioners nonetheless ask the Court to jump into the fray now. They want us to do something that they candidly acknowledge we have never done before: review the legality of a proposed rule.”

West Virginia led the pack in last year’s legal challenge of the EPA proposal. As state Attorney General Patrick Morrissey pretty much acknowledged in a statement today, it was a spaghetti strategy — throw it at the wall and see if it sticks:

“When we filed this case last summer, we knew there would be procedural challenges, but given the clearly illegal nature of the rule and the real harm occurring in West Virginia and throughout the country, we believed it was necessary to take all available action to stop this rule as soon as possible.”

One problem is that West Virginia, and the other plaintiff states, have essentially squandered the hard-earned money of their tax-paying citizens.

But a far greater issue is that some state regulators, who are responsible for developing the “State Implementation Plans” specifying how they’ll meet the EPA goals, have been holding out, hoping for a court ruling that would absolve them of this important task.

It’s time to quit dallying. The bottom line is, climate change is here, now, and existing fossil-fuel power plants account for 40 percent of America’s carbon footprint. We must significantly cut carbon pollution, and the most affordable, equitable and sensible way to do that is building up our clean energy sector.

Citizen Scientists Tackle Climate Change

Monday, April 13th, 2015 - posted by Dac Collins

By Lorelei Goff

In late March the sunlight falls in tepid, dappled patterns through the canopy of branches to the forest floor in Walker Valley, Tenn., home to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Red maple leaves burst from swollen buds and bird-foot violets unfurl diminutive petals. A familiar melody warbles through the air. The black-throated green warbler darts from tree to tree. His yellow face scans the forest from beneath an olive crown, a bib of black outlining his white belly.

The Metcalf siblings – Joshua, Daniel, Hannah and Sarah – visit a Tremont phenology plot to take notes on April 25, 2014. Photo by Karen Metcalf

The Metcalf siblings – Joshua, Daniel, Hannah and Sarah – visit a Tremont phenology plot to take notes on April 25, 2014. Photo by Karen Metcalf

Once welcomed as a sign of the forest’s constant seasonal cycles, the male warbler arrives in Walker Valley more than two weeks earlier than he did 20 years ago. That has Tiffany Beachy, Tremont’s citizen science coordinator, wondering if the warbler’s song is an ode to climate change.

Scientists at Tremont are using phenology — the recurring plant and animal life cycles of species in a particular region — to monitor changes such as the warbler’s early arrival. Observations recorded by citizens over the past 30 years can be used to determine if the changes are related to climate change.

Karen Metcalf and her children have watched the changes in Walker Valley for more than five years as citizen science volunteers. Daniel, 10, Hannah, 14, and Sarah, 18, record observations about trees, plants and birds, and take part in bird banding and butterfly tagging as part of their homeschool education.

“I think my kids are more aware if they spend time actually being part of the scientific process,” says Metcalf.

“It’s neat to know that what I’m doing will go into that bigger research,” says daughter Hannah. “It’ll be cool to see, when people gather it and study it, how it all comes together.”

Frank Whetstone and his mother Stacey help catch and tag Monarch butterflies during their fall migration. They also participate in vegetation analysis and pond-breeding amphibian monitoring at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Photo by Tiffany Beachy.

Frank Whetstone and his mother Stacey help catch and tag Monarch butterflies during their fall migration. They also participate in vegetation analysis and pond-breeding amphibian monitoring at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Photo by Tiffany Beachy.

Mac Post is a retired Oak Ridge National Laboratories environmental scientist. He used observations from citizen scientists to look at growing seasons for climate modeling while at Oak Ridge. He now monitors phenology plots and trains other citizen scientists at Tremont.

He says the value of citizen science goes beyond the information gathered.

“It gets people involved in understanding the scientific process and understanding what the source of information is and how the information is used and gets them to appreciate those things more,” Post says.

Beachy says citizen science has been around for several hundred years. She attributes its recent growth, in part, to the scope of the climate change problem and the need for large amounts of data.

According to Beachy, citizen scientists form the backbone of Tremont’s research, including a phenology project started in 2010. The project monitors eight plots of land dispersed throughout different forest types and elevations within walking distance of the campus. Citizen scientist volunteers visit the plots each week and record the seasonal changes of various species. Researchers are especially interested to see if the migratory arrival of birds changes over time in conjunction with the changes in the leaf-out of the trees and the availability of food resources.

“It’s very specific and detailed, so we get a very good picture, a snapshot, of what’s going on in the forest at that moment,” Beachy says.

“It’s hard to say that what we’re seeing so far is directly related to climate change, because we’ve seen it for a short period of time,” she adds. “But what I do notice, what I’ve seen in just the last few years, is lots of extremes.”

Beachy says the Tremont institute is working with research partners to analyze the accumulated data in the future as part of long-term climate change research.

The volunteers have contributed more than 2,000 hours to gathering data — an amount that would be impossible without citizen scientists.

The Highlands Biological Station in Highlands, N.C., found a different way to approach plot-based monitoring. The station hosts a planned garden of native plants and is the model for a network of similar gardens in the region that will allow scientists to compare data on the same species in different areas. Volunteers can record observations by visiting the Phenology Garden in person, or by visiting the website at highlandsbiological.org/phenology-garden and using the “Phenocam” webcam.

Trail Science

The Appalachian Trail MEGA-Transect phenology project monitors changes on a much larger scale. Volunteers collect information along the trail, from Georgia to Maine. Laura Belleville, Conservation Director at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, says the project began in earnest two and a half years ago.

“Our data is collected by trained volunteers — we’re always looking for new volunteers — at identified sites, to monitor specific species,” Belleville says. “That then can be rolled up to look at long-term trends with regard to the timing of bud release or flowering along the Appalachian Trail corridor.”

The program is too young to reveal any concrete conclusions about climate change on the trail, but the data has provided indicators of environmental health along the trail and is shared with the National Phenological Network to monitor changes over the long term.

“It’s a great opportunity to get outside and participate in a very large-scale scientific research project, and help us collectively understand the potential impacts of climate change,” says Belleville.

Is Climate Change for the Birds?

The National Audubon Society’s Christmas bird count encompasses much of the North American continent and may be the longest-running phenology project to date. It began 115 years ago and boasts tens of thousands of volunteers who count the bird population across the nation during a three-week period in December and January.

“The data that’s been collected over the century-plus gives us a good snapshot of the current bird distribution and how it’s changed,” says Curtis Smalling, director of Land Bird Conservation for Audubon North Carolina.

A landmark report based on volunteer-collected data and published by Audubon in 2009 shows that about a third of the bird species had shifted measurably north during that time.

The data was also used to publish another study in September 2014, “Birds and Climate Change,” that predicts what could happen over the next 80 years.

“The take-home message from the climate report is half the birds that breed in the U.S. are at risk from climate change,” Smalling says.

“Will they adapt? Will some species go extinct? We just don’t know. They’ve never had to adapt at this speed. And really, that makes the citizen science that informed those original reports that much more important,” he says.

Knowledge is Power

Data is a problem, according to Dr. Walter Smith, assistant professor at the University of Virginia at Wise, home to the student-led Southwest Virginia Citizen Science Initiative.

“We really don’t have a good handle on where certain species even live in the area, because some areas have been so heavily under-sampled,” Smith says. “And so for us, citizen science was a way to address that.”

Citizen observations from the Norton, Va., area led researchers to discover a previously-unknown and unusually abundant population of the secretive green salamander species. Information gleaned from studies at this site has led to more than 35 new populations of the species being discovered across southwest Virginia, as well as new insight into possible conservation threats facing the species. Photo by Walter Smith.

Citizen observations from the Norton, Va., area led researchers to discover a previously-unknown and unusually abundant population of the secretive green salamander species. Information gleaned from studies at this site has led to more than 35 new populations of the species being discovered across southwest Virginia, as well as new insight into possible conservation threats facing the species. Photo by Walter Smith.

The Southwest Virginia initiative is a partnership between UVA and iNaturalist, an online biodiversity social network collecting data for scientific research. Smith says the iNaturalist partnership allows citizen scientists to gather data on a larger scale than the scientific community can cover, or from private property that is inaccessible to scientists.

“When they see wildlife either on their property or hiking, they take a photograph of it,” he says. “That becomes an observation that’s uploaded to iNaturalist that can actually be used by scientists as data on biodiversity.”

Smith counts the two year old project a success, with nearly 4,000 individual wildlife observations by close to 300 volunteers capturing nearly 700 different species across the region. The information goes into a repository called the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and is accessible to anyone around the globe.

He hopes citizen science will inform experts and the public about how the planet is changing and how best to respond to it.

The Audubon Society’s Curtis Smalling agrees. “For us, the whole climate debate is about getting good information, more than politicizing it,” he says. “We really need good data.”

Become a Citizen Scientist

Citizen science is a rapidly growing movement of people participating in research across many disciplines. Volunteers contribute their time and observation skills, while doing things they love, to help build databases scientists use to conduct their research. Citizen science is a potent tool that has a real impact on how the public understands science, from climate change to astronomy to medicine.
Check out these links to help monitor climate change:

  • Are you into diatoms? Mollusks? Amphibians? Upload photographs of what you love on iNaturalist and become part of a global network of professional and amateur naturalists at: inaturalist.org
  • Help scientists meet their goal of 1.5 million plant and animal observations by contributing to the National Phenology Network at: usanpn.org/natures_notebook
  • Timing is everything for Project Budburst! Find out why: budburst.org
  • Want to know why Cornell University thinks citizen science is for the birds? Visit: birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit
  • Or visit scistarter.com/index.html to find your niche from a list of 600 citizen science projects covering many subjects

PJM Analysis Makes Economic Case for Clean Power Plan

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 - posted by Dac Collins

By Eliza Laubach

A region-wide electric grid operating company, PJM, released a report in March analyzing how states could comply with a proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule requiring that power plants cut carbon dioxide emissions.

The company, which extends into 14 states across the Northeast and Midwest, described lessened costs if states work together to mitigate climate change through increased renewable energy exchanges. These allow states to trade credits for renewable energy produced, which advances solar or wind power where it is already well-established and helps states that cannot easily meet the new carbon regulations.

In doing so, the region may see lower wholesale energy prices, the PJM report said, due to the investment in renewables, whose prices are steadily dropping. Natural gas will factor into overall energy prices as power plants switch to burning the more abundant, less costly fossil fuel. The report encouraged states to address energy efficiency potential, the cheapest source of energy, in both grid transmission and in homes and businesses where electricity is used.

New Studies Look at Southeast, Climate Change

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 - posted by Dac Collins

By Eliza Laubach

Scientists gained new insight into how effectively forests capture carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change. Adolescent forests absorb more carbon than young or old forests, the study, published in Scientific Reports, found. National Forest Service researchers observed southeastern forests in 11 states, many in Appalachia, and found that disturbance and land-use changes are important considerations when assessing the region’s carbon absorption potential.

Carbon dioxide emissions greatly impact climate change, and forests absorb the gas through photosynthesis. The Southeast contains more forested land than 96 percent of the countries who reported to the United Nations, and southeastern forests produce around 15 percent of the world’s wood products.

Changing weather patterns may bring more tornadoes to the Southeast, according to a study published in Climatic Change. Scientists at the College of DuPage compared climate modeling data from 1980-1990 to predictions for 2080-2090 and forecasted more severe spring thunderstorms that breed tornadoes across the Southeast, especially in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which helps residents affected by the most severe weather, announced that states without a hazard mitigation plan that addresses climate change will lose funding starting in 2016.

Obama Orders More Climate Change Mitigation

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 - posted by Dac Collins

President Obama signed an executive order in March to address human-caused climate change by cutting federal agencies’ greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent and increasing their renewable energy generation by 30 percent. The goals will be based on 2008 levels. The federal government is the largest consumer of energy in the United States.